This month, we raise a horn in honor of Egil Skallagrimsson.  His deeds make up a large portion of Egil’s Saga, which also gives a glimpse into the political, social, and cultural climate of 10th century Scandinavia.  The work offers us a working model of how the society of our ancestors worked, what they valued, and how things were done.

Egil was born in Iceland, in 904.  His poetic gifts became apparent at the age of 3 when he composed his first poem.  His ferocity also surfaced at a young age, after being cheated at a game.  Young Egil returned with an ax and split the offending party’s skull.  Both his poetry and ferocity would shape his life, sometimes at the same time. 

After a disagreement with his father, Egil set out for Norway.  While out and about with his colleagues, they were received by a servant of the king, Bard.  This man was less than hospitable towards them, until a feast later that night.  Egil began to taunt Bard viciously via poem, and Bard poisoned his drink.  Egil carved runes on the poisoned horn, and it shattered.  He then stabbed Bard and left.  While the king sent out a search party to capture Egil, the matter was eventually settled monetarily. 

Egil spent the next 5 decades touring the seas of northern Europe.  His talents and skills were showcased many more times, whether fighting for a king, erecting a nithing pole to drive an offending party away from the land, or using rune magic to cure a gravely ill woman.  Egil’s poetic gifts also remained with him throughout his life.  Some of these poems were in praise of the living, others in tribute to the dead.  Egil even composed a poem that so flattered a king, that this king spared his life.  In his final years, and in declining health, Egil returned to his native Iceland.  He died in 995, after burying his fortune. When his remains were to be moved, a priest is said to have hit Egil’s skull with an ax.  The bone is alleged to have not broken, but just turned white at the point of impact.

Egil has also found himself a topic of scientific conversation.  In the last several decades, scientists have begun to question the causes of his unusual appearance, as well as the durability of his skull.  As his father and grandfather were also described as having similar unique features, geneticists have begun to look more closely at several possibilities, leading to more genetic research involving the Folk at large.  While no conclusions have been made, new discoveries about our DNA are always a boon and may prove useful to future generations.  May Egil continue to inspire our Folk, in poetry, bravery, or discovery!

Hail Egil Skallagrimsson!

Anna Szczepanski
Asatru Folk Assembly

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